US President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden will compete for TV audiences in duelling town halls tonight instead of meeting face-to-face for their second debate as originally planned.
At least three people connected to Biden’s campaign have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris has suspended in-person campaigning after her staffer was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the United States elections. This is Jihan Abdalla and Saba Aziz.

Thursday, October 15:
17:00 ET – Trump campaign: Debates commission ‘bidding’ for Biden

Trump’s presidential campaign criticised what it called a “biased” Commission on Presidential Debates for favouring his Democratic rival Biden.

“Filled with pro-Biden Democrats and anti-Trump ‘Republicans,’ the commission has done the bidding of Joe Biden every step of the way and protected him at every turn,” Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign’s communications director said.

“There was no medical reason the candidates could not be on stage together tonight in Miami for the second debate, but instead they will be holding separate town halls,” he added.

Trump and Biden will face off in the final presidential debate in Nashville, Tennessee on October 22 [File: Julio Cortez/AP]16:50 ET – C-SPAN suspends Scully after he admits to lie about hack

US network C-SPAN suspended its political editor Steve Scully indefinitely after he admitted to lying about his Twitter feed being hacked when he was confronted about a questionable exchange with former Trump aide Anthony Scaramucci.

The news came on the day of what was supposed to be a career highlight for the 30-year C-SPAN veteran.

Scully was to moderate the second debate between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden, which was canceled after Trump would not agree to a virtual format because of his COVID-19 diagnosis.

A week ago, when Scully was questioned about a message he had sent to former Trump aide Anthony Scaramucci seeking advice, Scully claimed that someone had gotten into his account and done that [File: Ron Edmonds/AP]16:30 ET – Biden flew with person who tested positive for COVID-19: campaign

Biden flew on an airplane with a person who subsequently tested positive for COVID-19 but the former vice president was not in close contact with the person and there is no need for him to quarantine, his campaign said.

“Vice President Biden was not in close contact, as defined by the CDC, with this individual at any time,” the statement said, adding they both wore masks during the flights, which occurred on Monday and Tuesday.

“Given these facts, we have been advised by the Vice President’s doctor and the campaign’s medical advisors that there is no need for the Vice President to quarantine,” it said.

Biden waves as he arrives at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida on Tuesday [Carolyn Kaster/AP]16:15 ET – Trump joins the anti-NBC chorus

US television network NBC is under fire from critics for scheduling a town hall meeting with Trump at the same time as ABC is hosting Biden for his own town hall.

Now, you can add Trump to the list of NBC critics, but it’s not because of the scheduling controversy.

“So you know, I’m being set up tonight, right. I’m doing this town hall with Con-cast,” Trump said at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina, referring to Comcast, the owner of NBC, a company he’s feuded with for years accusing them of biased news coverage of him.

“So I’m doing it and it’s NBC. The worst.”

“And so they asked me if I’d do it, and I figured what the hell, we’ve got a free hour on television,” Trump added.

16:00 ET – Record numbers of early voters

Americans are voting early in record numbers with more than 17.8 million casting their ballots already ahead of the presidential election in November.

While the result of the White House race will not be known until Election Day on November 3 — or perhaps much later – the early vote indications appear to favour the Biden, who has a double-digit lead over Trump in the national polls.

Election experts point to the coronavirus crisis and an expansion of voting by mail for the surge in early voting, which is on a pace to smash the 2016 total of 47 million early votes.

Early voters wait to cast their ballots at the South Regional Library polling location in Durham, North Carolina [Gerry Broome/AP]15:20 ET – Will Biden turn Georgia blue?

Political analyst Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com has switched the group’s rating on the likely outcome of the election in Georgia following a Quinnipiac University Poll that showed Joe Biden seven percentage points ahead of Trump there.

“For the first time all year, Joe Biden is the favourite – the ever-so-slight favourite! – in our forecast,” Silber wrote on the the FiveThirtyEight.com website.

Look which state just turned blue in the snake.https://t.co/ajG88SznSA pic.twitter.com/sHnroFJKtS

— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) October 14, 2020

The race in Georgia is now forecast as a toss-up and Trump could easily re-emerge as the leader, Silver wrote.

But Biden has been leading in polls recently, suggesting Democrats in Georgia could overcome strict new voting rules put in place by Republicans since 2016 to win the state.

15:00 ET – Trump ‘very concerned’ after Harris’s staffer tests positive for COVID-19

Speaking at a campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina, Trump said he was “very concerned” about Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris after one of her staff members along with a non-staff flight crew member associated with the campaign tested positive for COVID-19.

“I’m very concerned about her,” Trump told his supporters at the Pitt-Greenville Airport.

“We extend our best wishes which is more than they did to me. But that’s okay,” he added.

“The glass ceiling broke her, but there will be a woman that breaks the glass ceiling, it just won’t be Hillary. And you know who else it won’t be? It won’t be Kamala…but I’m very concerned about her, because 2 people that travel with her…they have tested positive” — Trump pic.twitter.com/v484zRmMvT

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 15, 2020

14:45 ET – Trump urges North Carolina to ‘open up’ in campaign rally

Trump held a rally in Greenville, North Carolina just as long lines formed at polling places across the state as the battleground state kicked off early in-person voting.

“North Carolina, tell your governor to open up your state, open up your schools,” Trump said about the lockdowns used to limit the transmission of the coronavirus.

Early voting locations that opened in all 100 counties of the high-stakes swing state quickly drew crowds.

“I’m running against the worst candidate in the history of presidential politics,” Trump said speaking about his Democratic opponent Biden [Evan Vucci/AP]14:40 ET – Senate committee to subpoena Twitter CEO over blocking stories

The Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary  Committee plans to subpoena Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey after the social media platform blocked a disputed article about Biden.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz said the committee will issue the subpoena, compelling Dorsey to speak before it, because Twitter is “abusing their corporate power to silence the press and to cover up allegations of corruption”.

The social media giant on Wednesday blocked users from sharing or linking to a controversial New York Post article amid concerns that it could be linked to a disinformation campaign weeks ahead of the presidential election.

Read more here.

 

14:30 ET – Hollywood stars slam NBC over Trump town hall

Hollywood stars from Barbra Streisand and Ben Stiller to Julia Louis-Dreyfus and J J Abrams have slammed US broadcaster NBC for scheduling a Trump town hall at the same time as challenger Biden’s own event.

“(W)e have been devastated to learn that you have chosen to air President Trump’s town hall… directly opposite Vice President Biden’s town hall,” said an open letter to NBCUniversal executives signed by more than 100 actors, writers and directors.

“By agreeing to air his town hall as counterprogramming opposite Vice President Biden’s town hall on ABC, you are enabling the President’s bad behavior,” it added.

NBC has now decided that after he cowardly backed out of a debate to give Donald Trump an hour townhall opposite Joe Biden. All Trumps wants to do is win the ratings game. He is more a game show host than a President.

— Barbra Streisand (@BarbraStreisand) October 14, 2020

 

12:25 ET – Twitter restricts Trump’s campaign account from tweeting

Twitter Inc on Thursday temporarily restricted Trump’s election campaign account from tweeting, saying a video from the account about Biden’s son violated its rules.

The video posted by the @TeamTrump account referred to a New York Post story from Wednesday that contained alleged details of Hunter Biden’s business dealings with a Ukrainian energy company and said the former vice president had met with an adviser of the company.

“Joe Biden is a liar who has been ripping off our country for years,” the video was captioned.

12:15 ET – Biden and Democrats raised record $383m in September

Biden and his party raised a record-shattering $383m in September for his presidential bid, likely bolstering his financial advantage Trump.

The campaign had $432m in cash at month’s end for the final five weeks of the race, campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said on Twitter.

The haul outstripped the $365m that Democrats raised in August, which was itself a monthly record for any US presidential campaign.

“To every person who chipped in a few dollars last month – thank you,” Biden wrote on Twitter in announcing the sum. “I’m incredibly humbled.”

12:00 ET – ‘A long way to go’

With early voting underway in many states, 16 million Americans have already cast their votes according to the latest statistics.

Now: Early voting is already underway in many states. Millions of voters have already cast their ballots. But there is still a long way to go in this campaign, and we think this race is far closer than folks on this website think. Like a lot closer. (4/?)

— Jen O’Malley Dillon (@jomalleydillon) October 15, 2020

11:05 ET – Trump would go higher than $1.8 trillion on coronavirus stimulus deal

US President Donald Trump said he would agree to go higher than the $1.8 trillion that the White House has offered in coronavirus stimulus funding to strike a deal with House Democrats, who are seeking $2.2 trillion.

In an interview with Fox Business Network, Trump said there was a chance of getting a COVID-19 stimulus package passed before the November 3 presidential elections, though hopes for a deal have dimmed.

US President Donald Trump during a campaign rally at Des Moines International Airport in Des Moines, Iowa, US [Carlos Barria/Reuters]10:50 ET – Poll: Most Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of COVID-19

The majority of Americans are highly critical of President Trump’s handling of both the coronavirus pandemic and his own illness, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The survey indicates few Americans trust information the White House has released about Trump’s bout with COVID-19.

Initial accounts of the president’s condition were murky and contradictory, and the White House is still refusing to say when the president last tested negative for COVID-19 before his infection became public.

The poll suggests many Americans agree that Trump has mishandled the pandemic, with 65 percent saying the president has not taken the coronavirus outbreak seriously enough.

09:55 ET – Harris pauses in-person campaigning after staffer diagnosed with COVID-19

US Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris will cancel her travel plans through Sunday after one of her staff members tested positive for COVID-19, the campaign said in a statement.

The campaign said that Harris was last tested on Wednesday and was negative.

Her communications director, Liz Allen, had tested positive along with a non-staff flight crew member associated with the campaign.

Read more here.

Kamala Harris faces reporters in a hangar after she and Democratic US presidential nominee Joe Biden arrived at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona, US [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]09:40 ET –  Vote for contentious Supreme Court nominee set for October 22

The Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee has set a vote on confirmation of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett for October 22 at 1pm.

Barrett’s hearings turned contentious as Democrats contend Barrett has not been candid in her responses to questions, withheld information about speeches she has given in the past, and failed to affirm basic elements of law and public discourse that would put her at odds with Trump.

“I thought she was incredibly forthcoming,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the committee. Democrats disagreed.

“We’ve reached the point now where gifted, experienced jurists, legal scholars take that seat behind the table and then deny everything, refuse to answer anything,” said Senator Richard Durbin, a Democrat.

US Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett testifying on the third day of her US Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, US [Jonathan Ernst/Pool via Reuters]09:30 ET – Duelling town halls

Trump and Biden will compete for TV audiences in duelling town halls instead of meeting face-to-face for their second debate as originally planned.

Starting at 8pm ET, the two will take questions in different cities on different networks: Trump on NBC from Miami, Florida and Biden on ABC from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – both US battleground states.

Trump backed out of plans for the presidential face-off originally scheduled for October 15 after debate organisers shifted the format to a virtual event following Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis.

09:00 ET – Mail reversal

The US Postal Service is resuming full operations after changes that slowed mail service nationwide.

The Postal Service agreed to reverse all changes, which included reduced retail hours, removal of collection boxes and mail sorting machines, closure or consolidation of mail processing facilities, restriction of late or extra trips for timely mail delivery, and banning or restricting overtime.

The agreement also requires the service to prioritise election mail.

Read yesterday’s updates here.




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